Thursday, December 2, 2010

Kids and Snowsports

Over the Thanksgiving holiday I attended several dinners at different homes. Each time, there were several people at each table surprised to hear that I am a ski instructor, and had plenty of questions on the profession. After the initial "oh how interesting" comments and questions, I typically received the "can you make a living at that?". (The short answer, only a handful of instructors seem to make a solid living doing so without a secondary job.) Regardless people begin to ask for your expertise as a professional. Much the same way a doctor tends to be cornered at parties and asked about PainA or Obscure-Body-IssueB. In my case the common question was kids.

Let me start this off by saying at the resort we teach skiing to children ages 4+, and snowboarding to children ages 8+. Why the difference? I used to joke that it took an extra 4 years for a child to build up the proper angst and disrespect for their elders to properly snowboard. Then a new instructor took that seriously one day and passed along the information to a customer. The real reason has to do with physics; specifically the distance needed between the feet and the strength in the legs to bend the board. Does this blanket statement mean it's correct for everyone? Nope.

The PSIA and AASI both have what they call the Advanced Childrens Educators (ACE) certification available in two levels (the link is the best found via Google). The PSIA has the basic guidelines up for review here (as a PDF). Before you scoff at some of the requirements, realize that a 4 year old has difficulty in explaining when something is wrong. It's at this time checklists such as Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs come in handy. I have attended the ACE 1 training and never finished the certification point. Does this make me an expert at teaching children? Not at all. It's taken several years to feel confident in teaching young children and I still learn more each season.

Back to the basics of the questions received now. Most of these parents tell you their child is 4 or 5 at this point, which serves as a great indicator for how the conversation will continue. Attention spans are still short at this age. Depending upon the child basic needs can be an issue yet to be clearly spoken. While the child can walk, their physical strength may not yet be up to the point of competency when skiing. (If you don't believe me, try laying on flat ground, rolling to your feet, and standing up. Even adults have issue with this one.) Even with these limitations there is still one overall challenge that tops them all; parents.

The real challenge of teaching skiing isn't the kids, it's the parents. Overall kids this age are just excited to be playing in the snow, making snowballs, sledding, falling in, eating, or building snowmen. The introduction of a snow sport just provides yet another avenue of excitement for the children. Which is the key take away from snow sports; to have fun outdoors. For younger children, associating the concept of skiing with a fun time out in the snow is the most important step to creating your future Olympian. Many parents have difficulty understanding that a great ski day may include putting on the ski boots and building snow forts. Yet their kids have already started to bridge the concept of skiing with a fun time outside.

The goal is to build up great memories for your child of having fun outside. This isn't going to happen on the first, second, or (depending upon the age) maybe not even the third visit.


Justin B. said...

Linked to you brother...

Maslow? Dude, that is deep. You must not snowboard because most snowboarders drop out before they get to the 4th week of Psych 101 where they learn about Maslow, and for that matter, of those that make it through Psych 101, most smoke that knowledge away for... er... their glaucoma or chronic pain syndrome.

Off-piste said...

Actually a lot of your post/commentary is the start of what it takes to make a great day for learning. As you said, you have to feel comfortable in your basic needs first, before you can start to learn anything new.